Celebrating Head Coach Peter's 10th Year with Westside Aquatics

Valerie Williams

Head Coach Peter Fishler has been coaching with Westside Aquatics for 10 years and has been a vital member of our team. Peter has coached a wide variety of swimmers: from kids who are just learning how to swim to elite swimmers who want to swim in college. He is able to understand what each kid needs in order to better them not only as swimmers, but as individuals as well. To honor his time as a coach we have put together an interview, so that everyone can get to know him better as a person and why coaching has become his passion. 


How old were you when you started swimming? 

The house I grew up in had a pool, but my parents filled it in when I was too young to really explore it on my own.  I raised such hell over it after the fact that they pledged to send me to summer camp every year so I could spend some time in the water.  I never really saw myself as capable in the water until one summer, the resident bully in my Boy Scout Troop noted “you’re a pretty good swimmer” after my leg of an ocean swimming relay race.  I cherished those words, and after that I was very sensitive towards going fast in the water whenever I could.


When did you join swim team? 

I began swimming at 14 years old, as a freshman in high school.  My dad said “Figure out whether you are joining the Tennis, Track or Football team, and let me know which one you decide and I’ll coach you through it.”  None of those really appealed to me (nor did having my father as a coach), and I decided that I was a fast enough swimmer to take a shot joining the team 2 months after the tryout period.  When the high school coach figured out I didn’t know my four strokes (“what do you mean sidestroke isn’t a stroke?”), I was referred to the local YMCA to join the itty bitty novice group and learn about swimming.  That’s where I met Adam Blakis, and the rest is history.


What are your favorite achievements as an athlete?

That’s tough … I could dwell on my successful DIII career at the conference level.  I could talk about my club swimming, or high school swimming successes.  But my favorite achievement?  The fact that I still enjoy being athletic.  I know so many people that I swam with that have given up on being an athlete, and it breaks my heart.  Something went wrong for them to look at their past as an athlete and decide “I think that’s enough for me.”  Athleticism should be something an individual pursues, in various capacities, over the course of their entire lives.  And I’m happy that I’m still excited to be in the thick of it!


When and why did you start coaching?

At the start of my senior year in high school, I debated how to spend my time between school and practice.  I considered the cross country team, but when I learned that the Pali assistant coach could only work 2 days a week, I decided to volunteer to assist with the workload.  


What do you like about coaching? 

I like having the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.  Some people need an athletic trainer to help them be the best athlete they can be.  Some people need a soundboard to help them reflect on the decisions they make.  And some people need a shoulder to cry on.  As a swim coach, I can be all these things to any of my athletes, as they need it, without being limited in my capacity to affect my other athletes as necessary.


What are your goals as a coach? 

That depends on the athlete.  Some athletes want to get fit - my goal is to provide them the tools they need to become as fit as they can be.  Some athletes want to swim in college - my goal is to prepare them for what it takes to be competitive and successful at the collegiate level.  Some athletes don’t know what they want from swimming - my goal is to help them figure out what they want, and how swimming can help them in pursuit of that dream.


What coaches do you admire?

Eddie Reese, for being the greatest swim coach ever.  Professional swim coaching has been around for roughly 70 years, and he has won an NCAA championship in each decade over the last 4.  That doesn’t happen by repeating the same old song and dance over and over again.  That happens through adaptability and a desire to engage with his athletes as the world changes around them.  Honorable mentions: Gary Hall Sr., Jim Steen, Brett Hawke.


What are some of your notable achievements as a coach?

The only achievement worth noting as a coach is whether my athletes enjoy showing up to train under me.  Sure, some training sessions suck more than others - but if my athletes are consistently not excited to swim, then I am failing as a coach.


What are your hobbies/ what do you like doing in your free time? 

I’m a huge sci-fi/fantasy nerd, so you can often find me understanding how narratives in those genres are woven together.  I am extremely active, as the more physically tired I become, the more I can let my mind wander.  I love a good retro game, video or tabletop, and enjoy pursuing continued studies in the Symbolist School of Egyptology.


What are your favorite places to travel? 

Bodysurfing in Hawaii takes the cake, followed closely by camping in Joshua Tree.


What is your favorite workout?

Finding the tallest mountain around and running up it as fast as I can, then comparing that time to every other time I’ve run up that mountain.


What did you learn about yourself and the team through the Pandemic?

The Pandemic really illustrated that family comes first, and the people on this team who felt like they were a part of the family were able to rely on each other for support. Twenty weeks of Zoom calisthenics sounds like a nightmare (and sometimes it was), but there were so many days the group could kick back and just relax over a bad dad joke.  It was moments like those that made it so rewarding to bring everyone back and have those connections in place.  In some respects, our athletes and coaches would not be as close without having spent so much time together in that fashion when the world seemed to be in chaos around us.


Peter has had an impact on so many kids throughout his 10 years teaching. We have asked a couple of his current and former swimmers to write a story of their favorite memory with Peter. If you’d like to share a special memory, story or photos to be added to this article, please send to Coach Valerie ([email protected]). 



Huck Wright (Bronze): Coach Peter is a very good coach and I really enjoy being at the pool with him. One day we were both wearing our facemasks and sunglasses/goggles (so the only thing you could see was our hair) and someone thought I was Peter’s son. So he called me son for a while, but now he calls me Staypuft.  

Grace Winter (Former Swimmer): One of my favorite memories with Peter was the first time I swam the 500 freestyle. It was at the San Fernando pool and I believe that I was swimming it for IMX. I was very nervous about swimming the 500; how could I swim 20 laps and won’t I lose count? And Peter wasn’t going to be there because he was going back and forth from another meet. It was the last event of the day, and I’m pretty sure it was already dark. And I was not looking forward to it. And what do you know Peter showed up and said “I heard someone was swimming the 500.” I was so happy that at least Peter would be able to see me swim the race and that I would have a coach there to motivate me to do my best. After swimming the 500, I ended up really loving the race, and subsequently told Peter that I had enjoyed it, and it became one of my events!

Brooke Donowho (Former Swimmer): PETER!!! Oh my goodness.. Happy 10th year of being a superstar swim coach!!! That’s insane lolll. I can’t tell you how blessed I was to swim under you at Westside. There are too many fond memories I look back on, but the ones that have always stuck out to me were the times you encouraged, guided, and led me in all that I was doing- whether that was in swimming, school, friendships, etc. Swim meets though generally took the cake in terms of fondest memories, especially that one Rose Bowl meet after my car accident. I will never forget how gracious and consoling you were when I was pretty freaked out. I remember you saying, “Well, let’s just see how you do today”. You’re such an incredible leader / swim coach Peter!!! And every person who gets the privilege of having you as their coach is blessed beyond their imagination because getting you as a coach is not just about the swimming, but about being guided, led, encouraged, directed, consoled... the list goes on and on. Looking back, I’m so grateful the Lord brought me to Westside just to experience your coaching and leadership. Who knows what my high school experience would’ve been like without it! Cheers to you, Peter! Cheers to doing what you love, to changing the lives of your swimmers, and to having an absolute blast over these last 10 years. Way to go!!

Christopher Pedersen, Riley Griffis, Andrew Planting (Former Swimmers): Peter has had a huge impact on our lives, in and out of the pool. A personal favorite memory of the group revolves around a foldable red table. During our junior year of high school, we found a large briefcase-looking box in the back of the storage shed at the Pali pool. As we opened up the box and realized it was a mobile table, none of us realized that this table would become iconic within the senior group of the club. This table would travel to all club meets with us, becoming an essential ritual for the boys of the senior group. But our journey to hold onto this table came to a halt with an intervention by none other than Peter. When we first had the table, we stored it on top of the locker room of the Pali pool. Of course, this was quickly found by the lifeguards and promptly handed over to Peter. Instead of just giving it back to our group, Peter revealed one of his true strengths and essential traits as a coach: his ability to motivate his swimmers to succeed. Before we could get the table back, Peter told all of us that if we had a good week of practice and put in our maximum effort, he would reward us with the table. And of course, we did exactly that. This silly story may seem pointless to other people but to the three of us, it showed Peter’s ability to constantly motivate all of his kids, get them excited to swim and perform to the best of their ability. In the end, Peter’s hard work and efforts to keep all of us engaged led us to heights in our swimming career that we never expected to reach. Your motivation has driven us past anything we could have imagined and opened up opportunities for all of us. Thank you, Chief!

Kelsey MacCuish (Former Swimmer):

Peter taught me how to swim from scratch. I knew how to do a little freestyle when I started, but he taught me proper technique, how to build endurance, and most of all, made me absolutely fall in love with swimming. Everyday I think about what my life would be like without swimming, and wow, what a different (and worse lol) life it would be. And my favorite part -- I can almost guarantee that I wouldn't have stuck with a hardcore sport like swimming if I had had any other coach. So Peter, tldr, thank you for changing my life in the best way possible!


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